Championship

Clubs That *Should* Be In The Premier League

Okay, to clear things up, I’m by no means suggesting that the following seven clubs get automatic admission to the top-flight. In fact, the teams that are in the Premier League, deserve to be there… obviously. So to the likes of Hull City, Swansea City, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and beyond, congratulations you merit your position. This is just, if I had to start the Premier League from scratch, who I would choose to be the additional founding members.

Leeds United

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 9

Marching on together… Leeds United are a sleeping giant.

The lilywhites of West Yorkshire are simply one of the most famous clubs in the country. They’ve experienced great success in the past and have a fanbase to much, despite their now dwindling numbers at home. Leeds would bring a great deal of atmosphere to the Premier League with their passionate away support and would ignite the ‘Roses derby’ with Manchester United that the neutral has been robbed of for so many years.

Ipswich Town

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 11

Unchanged… Portman Road has experienced more than a decade of stability.

The former UEFA Cup champions from Suffolk are certainly unsung when this debate ever arouses. Despite spending the last 11 years rooted in the second tier, Town are still, in my humble opinion, a bigger club than their East Anglian rivals, Norwich City. The Tractor boys may not have the fanbase to match other clubs in this list but they are certainly worthy of gracing the top flight, having finished fifth as recently as the 2000-01 season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Current league: Sky Bet League One
Years in exile: 2

Underachieving… Wolves will spend the 2013-14 season in the third tier.

Woeful Wolves have only spent two seasons outside of the top-flight but now find themselves two promotions from returning. The West Midlands club have been in free fall since 2011 and should never have hit the low they’re at now. Wolves remain a club with a sizeable fanbase and a glittering history, certainly worthy of returning to the Premier League sooner rather than later.

Sheffield Wednesday

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 13

Invasion… Fans celebrate 2012’s promotion to the Championship

If we’re talking underachievers, you can’t look much further than Sheffield Wednesday. Historically, the club can boast eight major trophies and a huge fanbase in a city that shares two fairly big clubs. The Owls ought to reach the Premier League just to spare their long-suffering fans who have seen the third tier nearly as much as the second in the last decade.

Leicester City

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 9

Geared… City’s impressive ‘new’ home has only seen one season of top-flight football.

I may be biased here but the Foxes are more than worthy of a place in the big time. Despite being steeped in a history of nearlies, Leicester City have always been slugging it out in the top two tiers, in fact, they have spent less time outside the top two divisions than any other club on this list. City have been knocking on the Premier League door since 2009 and have had several excruciating close calls, the fans of one of the Championship’s four biggest fanbase deserve a return to the lucrative 90s.

Nottingham Forest

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 15

‘World famous’… The City Ground has been more attuned to League One football than the Premier League in recent years.

A painful inclusion to say the least, but one I’d struggle to argue against. The once well-known Reds are former European champions, not that they like anyone to know and have a fair history even without the legendary Brian Clough’s contribution. Forest also boast one of the best fanbases outside the top-flight with Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds and local ‘non-rivals’, Leicester City.

Derby County

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 5

Blind loyalty… Derby fans sold out nearly every home game of the record-breaking 2008-09 season.

It would be nice to see all of the East Midlands big three back in the top-flight meaning the Rams needed a place on the list. A club that boasts a good history and a recent calamitous foray in the Premier League that I’m sure they would like to rectify. Recognition has to be given to Rams’ fans for their loyalty at home during the dire 2008-09 season and beyond, even if their fans do share a travel sickness.

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A Rallying Cry

Sorry Leicester City have won just once in ten games, coinciding with a superb run by bitter rivals, Nottingham Forest that has seen the Tricky Trees leapfrog the Foxes. City now lie in the play-offs on goal difference having been rooted in the automatic promotion places just eight weeks ago.

Troubled… Even Walkover FC beat Leicester City at the weekend.

We’re all feeling frustrated. We all want to win promotion. We all want Leicester City to succeed. It’s clear that in recent games, we’ve been playing terribly. ‘We bow down to physicality’, ‘we have no plan B’ or whatever your criticisms may be, we must remember that we still possess the same squad and backroom staff that had us flying in October and January. Try and find solace in the fact that we have the resources to turn this around.
In truth, as fans, there is little we can do. We can’t change the formation, we can’t change the personnel, all we can do is SUPPORT. The only thing we can do is get behind the team. I understand that this downturn in form is frustrating, annoying, distressing or whatever you want to call it but does a chorus of groans every time a play doesn’t end in a goal do anything to aid the team? Does a roar of boos really do anything to help a defeat? It’s the business end of the season and to fit the cliché; we have eight cup finals left this season. By all means, nit pick at the performance and the result to your heart’s content, after the final whistle. But during these eight games, turn up to all of those that you can, pick out your shirt and your scarf, sing your hearts out, whether you’re in L1, SK1, the Kop or the Family Stand. Even those in the West Stand need to put down their prawn sandwiches and drive the club to the play-offs. Be the twelfth man.

Twelfth man… City fans can have a huge influence on the rest of the season

I’m not saying we should accept this downturn of form and be ‘soft’. It’s not good enough. But we as supporters need to do all we can.

People moan about the lack of fight and passion and negativity in the team. We can’t do anything about that, but we can rectify all of those things occurring in the stands.

Mantra… Fans hold the key to restoring Leicester’s famous grit.

Keep the faith. Foxes never quit.

Football club opinion survey

Just under 300 football fans answered a survey on their hopes for the promotions and relegations of England’s top 5 divisions come May and who neutral fans prefer in the country’s fiercest rivalry.

Who do you want to win the Premier League?

Manchester City (57.14%)

Blue moon…The majority of neutrals are hoping that the Citizens can retain their title

Manchester United (34.92%)
Chelsea (7.94%)

Who do you want to be relegated from the Premier League?

SOTV… Neutrals are hoping that hapless Villa’s time is up.

Queens Park Rangers (27.5%)

Aston Villa (20.9%)

Reading (13.2%)

Others (38.4%)

Who do you want to win promotion from the Championship?

Leicester City (22.6%)

On the hunt… Leicester are hoping to out-fox their promotion rivals.

Cardiff City (12.3%)

Crystal Palace (11.6%)

Others (52.5%)

Who do you want to be relegated from the Championship?

 

Adieu… The Championship wants rid of the Molineux

Peterborough United (17.3%)

Wolverhampton Wanderers (14.2%)

Bristol City (13.6%)

Others (54.9%)

Who do you want to be promoted from League One?

Bournemouth (11.7%)

Up the cherries… Fans want the south coast club to travel north in the league ladder.

Swindon Town (11.2%)

Notts County (11.2%)

Others (65.9%)

Who do you want to be relegated from League One?

Bury (14.4%)

Pay up Pompey… Fans are unsympathetic towards Pompey’s plight.

Portsmouth (13.7%)

Hartlepool United (13.0%)

Scunthorpe United (13.0%)

Others (55.9%)

Who do you want to be promoted from League Two?

BREWERS… Burton are wanted in League One.

Burton Albion (14.7%)

Bradford City (14.0%)

Port Vale (12.7%)

Gillingham (11.3%)

Others (47.3%)

Who do you want to be relegated from League Two?

Aldershot Town (25.2%)

Under the hill… Fans want Edgar Davids playing non-league football

Barnet (19.8%)

Others (55.0%)

Who do you want to be promoted from the Blue Square Premier?

Giant killers… Fans would savour a Luton league return.

Grimsby Town (19.5%)

Luton Town (19.1%)

Others (61.4%)

For the results pertaining to cup competitions and/or rivalries please feel free to contact me on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ChrisRWhiting and ask for the results. I don’t have time to put them all on here at the moment but they will probably be posted soon.

El Clasico, me duck

Fester vs. Shottingham, The Bin Dippers vs. The Trees, Leicester vs. Forest

It may not be the biggest rivalry in East Midlands football but a significant rivalry exists nonetheless. The cities of Leicester and Nottingham are the urban heavyweights of the East Midlands and with the eerie alignment of off-field circumstances, next Saturday’s East Midlands derby could prove to be a very interesting one.

Rivals… Leicester City face Nottingham Forest.

History… Leicester have spent many years in Nottingham’s shadow

Even the most die-hard Leicester fans would struggle to argue that Leicester–Forest was the fiercest rivalry in the East Midlands. It’s no secret that Forest hold a much more ferocious disliking of Derby County but that’s not to say that Leicester and Forest don’t have a rivalry of their own. In fact, when it comes to the city rivalry of the region, Derby barely feature. Nottingham is recognised as a major English settlement whereas Leicester is regarded to be an outstanding example of a 21st century city. It’s probably fair to say that the inhabitants of Leicester have long looked at their northern neighbours from Nottingham with some disdain, due to the frequent disregard of their own city. Although, Nottingham is famous for Robin Hood nowadays its surpassed by Leicester in almost every way;  Leicester’s population as of the 2011 census stood at 327,000 compared to Nottingham’s 305,000 inhabitants, Leicester has the stronger economy of the two cities and the life expectancy of Leicesterians is some five years higher at 77 than those living in Nottingham at 72, the city with the highest crime rate per capita in the country.

Deforestation… Leicester have beaten Forest 7 times at their new home

Of course, the rivalry has ultimately transcended in to football. The clubs have met competitively on 102 occasions with Leicester holding the slight upper hand with 39 wins compared to Forest’s 38. To the pain of the Foxes, Forest recorded Leicester City’s biggest ever defeat back in April 1909 when City crashed out 12–0 to the Tricky Trees, in fact the performances by the men in blue were so terrible, the FA launched an inquiry, unearthing that the Leicester players had been hungover from a wedding reception the night before. Both sides seem to have a mutual lack of fortune at the other’s home ground. Since Leicester moved to the King Power Stadium in 2002, Forest have suffered 7 defeats in 9 visits, only scoring one goal in the process back in 2005. Leicester’s travelling woes are even worse with Leicester’s last league victory at the City Ground coming in 1972, a game in which both Keith Weller and Alan Birchenall scored. Although, you only have to travel back to 2007 for Leicester’s last win at the City Ground, a controversial 3–2 league cup win, remembered for Forest’s ‘free goal’, a gesture to represent the scoreline when the game was abandoned the first time around due to Clive Clark’s heart attack.

Comeback… Schmeichel sees red as Forest come back from two goals down at the City Ground

In fact, Leicester and Forest’s meetings haven’t been short of controversy in recent years, particularly at the City Ground. Last season, saw Leicester surrender a two goal lead at the City Ground after a controversial penalty and at best a dubious red card for Kasper Schmeichel. However, the fans of Nottingham Forest would take some heavy criticism following claims of racist chanting during a 0–0 draw during the 3rd round of the FA Cup. But perhaps the most intriguing thing about games between Leicester and Nottingham Forest is the differences in the fans’ attitudes. While, it’s true that the vast majority of Leicester fans consider Forest to be their main rivals the same isn’t true for the fans of the Tricky Trees. Leicester come a distant second to Derby County, a rivalry they seem bizarrely protective over. Actually, the most peculiar aspect of Forest’s approach to the Foxes is their persistence that they ‘don’t care’ about Leicester whilst simultaneously revelling in the Foxes misfortunes. In reality, Leicester are still a main target for Forest’s terrace chants and the Reds’ fans of Loughborough, Melton Mowbray and yesteryear would tell you there is a significant rivalry between the two clubs. What has always puzzled me is Forest’s decision not to embrace a second fierce rivalry to accompany the Derby one. In fact, Forest fans can appear arrogant in their dismissal of City, as if they’re above them when in truth, both clubs are equal nowadays with the Foxes having greater success in recent years. Although as much as Forest downplay the fixture, Leicester fans seem to amplify it when in reality it doesn’t deserve to sit among the fiercest derbies in the country.

On Both Sides… former Forest favourite, Wes Morgan is now captain of Leicester City

On the pitch, the battle between the two East Midlands giants is set to be close. In a bizarre twist of fate, Leicester and Forest seem to have had remarkably similar fortunes in recent seasons. Both reached and were knocked out of the play-off semi-finals in 2009/10, Leicester went on to appoint former England boss, Sven-Goran Eriksson to the manager’s position and Forest followed suit by hiring Steve McClaren. Now, the two are backed by multi-millionaire foreign owners and both expect to be back in the Premier League sooner rather than later. Leicester have lived up to pre-season expectations so far, sitting in the top four, having only lost one game at home this season. Forest travel to the King Power Stadium in great form and are (with Blackburn and Crystal Palace) the toughest team to beat in the league having lost just three times this season and in true competitive spirit, both clubs’ fans are buoyant with confidence, both hoping that this is the year that these two great clubs finally make it back to the big time.

Blue Side of the Trent

King Power Confidence… Leicester boast an impressive home record.

“Our season started out a bit rocky to say the least, good performances that resulted in nothing and we fully deserve to be where we are now if not with a few more points. Recent form has shown we’re capable of being up there with the best in the league. The rivalry is very played up in my opinion. I think it’s a bigger rivalry than Derby but that’s because my uncle supports Forest, they always make a massive thing of the games before they happen as do most Forest fans I’ve ever unfortunately come into contact with. In my eyes the rivalry is the biggest we’ve got but is pretty tame as rivalries go although it’s always nice to beat them. Not being able to go to the game is a real downer for me but in every other way I’m looking forward to a game that should generate a bit of atmosphere everywhere in the ground which will be good not only for fans but for the players too. This could be a fierce game with Forest hovering just outside the play-offs and Leicester in the run with Cardiff for 1st place, with both teams on a good run both with 2 losses in the last 10, the only separation is that Forest have had considerably more draws than Leicester . I predict a good game, few goals a spectacular goal is called for a Gally free kick maybe?” – @YouKnowLily_

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“This could be the match to get the Foxes back on track. After going on a surging run of 7 unbeaten games, which included a 5-match winning streak, Leicester have come unstuck in recent matches vs Crystal Palace and Watford; losing both matches 2-1. You can already sense the anticipation in the Foxes ranks for this match as it is one of the matches that both sets of fans (no matter how much they’d like to hide it) look out for when the fixtures are released in summer. As our home record is fairly strong, coupled with their poor record at the King Power, I’m going in to this game with some confidence.
Not many Leicester fans could complain about how this season has gone so far. From the beginning, it looked like the inconsistencies of not being able to win 2 in a row would continue to haunt us. However, since the departure of a couple of key players, our squad got their act together and starting to win more than 1 game at a time! It set us up for a brief stint at the top of the league which had felt like an eternity to come. However, the past week hasn’t been so rosy which is why I believe beating Forest at home would get us back on the right track and get us back to the top again. It’s refreshing to see some creative players with flair and some entertainment back in the side – Anthony Knockaert especially. Wes Morgan though has been one of Pearson’s best signings. Solid as a rock at the back and would be fitting for him to score and lead the Foxes to a sweet victory over his old club.
Personally, I think Nottingham Forest have been our main rivals ahead of anyone else. I have seen them as a far superior threat than the likes of Derby and Coventry since I’ve supported Leicester. It does give me great pleasure each time we beat them, no doubt about that. And I’m sure it’s the same each time they beat us no matter how much they’d like to deny it. I was surprised to see them lose 4-1 at home to Millwall, but it just emphasises how unpredictable this league can be.
I’d love to give them a right thrashing on home turf. To be honest though, 3 points would be welcome in any particular fashion. I fancy Knockaert and King (should they play) to be on top form. I fully expect Wes Morgan to play the captain’s role once again. He’s been my player of the season so far. Very influential and commanding in central defence. I’ll go for 3-1; Nugent, King and Morgan for us; Billy Sharp for them. ” – @StanLCFC

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“A very positive start to the season at the Kingpower, dominant till The Eagles took flight and capitalised. Away games started very poorly but certainly improved on this. We’ve created enough chances to win every game just that killer hitman would make us (and with no bias) the perfect team. Pearson putting us top of the league with very influential performances home and away has left all of the LCFC faithful feeling very positive, a feeling of satisfaction. Forest under new management and new investment is a very big positive now at the City Ground, will get the fans backing back after an ever so woeful season last campaign for the trees. Billy Sharp and Simon Cox looking strong and Jermaine Jenas being a playmaker on his second bite of the cherry with them, a new and stronger looking team for NFFC in my eyes and very dangerous. The rivalry… My Mum is a city fan, I grew up with that and that is never going to change, my Dad on the other hand a forest fan… Gets very sour with Papa Wainwright. The rivalry means a lot to me due to the family bragging rights. Forest thrashing us by 5 goals to the good left me feeling red faced but our stunning home performances against the Red Army leaving him under the blues quite literally every time. My overall prediction is a win, at all costs. Regaining that mentality to be winning every game will be drilled into the player’s heads by Nige… A challenge, but we will be the one’s winning on the tele, again.” – @_samwainwright

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Red Side of the Trent

Rejuvenated Reds… Forest fans are hoping for a fox hunt.

“Forest vs Leicester is a game I always look forward too despite the fact that I don’t hate them as much as Derby. The games always seem to be memorable. Such as when we beat Leicester 5-1 or when Leicester beat us 4-0. The fact that Wes Morgan is now captain of Leicester makes next Saturday a little emotional for us Forest fans as we all still love that man and I for one will always love him.
The banter between Forest and Leicester fans is brilliant. Because all of us Forest fans go on like we don’t care about Leicester but in fact I think we all do, we just love to annoy the Leicester fans.
The way Leicester have started the season genuinely has surprised me, their squad doesn’t look as impressive as last season but they have got the results. On the other hand our start to the season has been impressive too which gets me so excited for the 10th November as I feel it will be a very close game just like the 0-0 last season. I am praying that next Saturday I will be celebrating our first victory at Leicester’s ground for a very long time rather than having to see all of the Leicester fan’s celebrating and more importantly seeing Wes Morgan celebrating.” – @zackgrundy26

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“Robbie Findley with an incredible chance to score in a cup replay against bitter rivals Leicester City, somehow from no more than a few yards out puts the ball over the bar instead, of tucking away what seemed a certain goal. This was a moment that perfectly defined the 11/12 season for Nottingham Forest, a goal down away from home, again. A meager 1600 fans tucked away in the far corner of the ground, cursing their luck and reminiscing old managers and past seasons as they watch one of their 3 fit forwards squander a chance that seems harder to miss. Stood in the corner of that ground was one of the lowest points of my time following Forest, even down in League One we had some fight about us, passion. People wanted to watch us, 5000 fans travelled to places such as Oldham to watch their team, now, without even half of the allocation received 40 minutes down the road at Leicester, one of our 2 main rivals. A season plagued by tragedy, with the death of Nigel Doughty, injury, over paid primadonnas and sheer bad luck.
A few months down the line and what a difference a summer makes, with the Al-Hasawi family taking over in the summer and heavily investing in the squad, and most importantly the ideals of one Sean o’Driscoll things are looking up again on the red side of the Trent, with 5 games unbeaten (before Millwall at home this weekend) and big wins over title favourites Cardiff and a 4-1 win at a tough side in Barnsley the optimism is back for many Forest fans, along with the away followings, and most importantly the pride and willingness to play for the shirt. On Saturday 10th November, we face one of the sternest tests so far when we once again face bitter rivals Leicester City, who themselves are having a fantastic start to the season.
After a questionable start to the season which has seen media speculation regarding the future of Nigel Pearson (wrongly) Leicester have started to achieve the results that their performances had already been meriting, with some of the strongest teams in the league such as Blackpool being added to the impressive home record at the KP stadium. Fan favorite, and the ever-present David Nugent will be one of many players Forest must keep a keen eye on if they are to achieve any form of result at the KP this November, his pace is a match for any defence, never mind one that has recently been hit with injuries and is also only a few months in the making. A particular area of concern for me is the wide players at Leicester, Anthony Knockaert has shown what he is about with 2 world-class goals, and Lloyd Dyer, although inconsistent always seems to play havoc down the wing against Forest. This is an area which many teams have highlighted as a weak point in our defence with the generally narrow game that Forest play. Reminiscent of Stuart Pearce during the Clough Era the full backs will often over lap the supposed wide midfielder, whilst players such as Chris Cohen and Andy Reid will cut inside rather than hitting the byline like a typical winger. This has had its successes and failures, the most notable being the defeat at the hands of Derby County, and problems caused by two of the most exciting wingers in the league in Zaha and Redmond. In order to get anything out of this game Forest must play the game their own way and if Messer’s Halford or Harding do go on a Pearce style run then we need to make sure cover is available in the full back position . I’m confident that Forest have the ability and goals in the team to cause Leicester are a real problem at the KP, however I think any Forest fan would snatch a hand off for a draw before the game kicks off.” – @ImAshleyyyyyyyy

Tame Tigers Mauled by Foxes

Leicester City completed back-to-back wins for the first time this season as David Nugent saw off Nigel Pearson’s former club with a superb hat-trick. 

The home side were  the brighter starters and their early pressure payed off in the 7th minute when David Nugent slotted home his second of the campaign as the King Power Stadium faithful urged the foxes to grab another. In fact, Hull were fortunate to still have

“3-1 Leicester! 3-1 Leicester! In your cup fiiiiiiiiinal!”… Hat-trick hero, David Nugent

eleven men on the pitch after a crunching two-footed challenge from Faye on Jamie Vardy went unpunished. But, Hull fought back in the 26th minute as Leicester’s tendency to concede sloppy goals continued as Jay Simpson levelled for Hull from 3 yards. A goal that materialised from nothing much to the delight of the 1,500 travelling fans.

The right to goad fell back to the away supporters as a horrible sense of familiarity encroached the City faithful but the game would be handed another twist as Knockaerts wonderfully crafted cross landed on the head of David Nugent to put City 2-1 up heading in to the break.

Embarrassment… Steve Bruce is sent to the stands.

Leicester came bursting out of the traps in the second half much like they did in the first. The Foxes fans rocked Filbert Way belting out the mocking taunt of “2-1 in your cup finaaaaal” to the hushed Humber army. Leicester continued to frustrate the Tigers as the game edged closer to the final whistle, a feeling perfectly emulated by manager, Steve Bruce who was dismissed for a juvenile rant to the fourth official. The Leicester fans lauded the hilarity as Bruce was repeatedly moved around the ground.

Despite the buoyancy in the home end, Hull nearly had the last laugh as Nick Proschwitz’s thumping header was cleared off the line in injury time to set up a superb counter attack as Dyer slotted through to Nugent who wrapped up the three points with a career first hat-trick.

Cheers rang around the King Power Stadium as the full time whistle went, leaving Leicester lying 7th in the table.

“One Nigel Pearson”… The Foxes’ boss got the last laugh over his former employers.

FT: Leicester City 3–1 Hull City

Attendance: 20,815

2012-13 Football League Championship : Fans’ preview

The new season of the best 2nd tier in the World is less than a month away and the fans of the 24 clubs preparing to do battle over the next 9 months are chomping at the bit to voice their opinions, dreams and concerns for the coming campaign…

Title Contenders

Blackburn Rovers

Bounce-back-ability… Rovers fans are Kean to return to the top flight

Last season: 19th (Premier League)
Home ground: Ewood Park
Rivals: Burnley, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End
Bookies’ prediction: 4th

Questions answered by Carly Brown http://www.twitter.com/carly_brown_

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Promotion! – I think we can do it. We’ve had some decent signings that can strengthen the squad and fill our weaknesses from last season

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Missing out on promotion. Slacking in important games. Giving up..

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We was weak in defence and midfield last season at certain times. Need strong commited centre midfields

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Easy one. Ask any Rovers fan – DOUBLE OVER BURNLEY!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
I think Danny Murphy will be strong for us this season. If key players from last season stay I think they will shine in the Championship

6. Who will win the league?   ~
Bolton..                                         

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
 I think newly promoted Sheff Wednesday and Huddersield will do unexpectedly well               

8. Where will you finish?
2nd

Bolton Wanderers

Nailed on… Ryan Taylor is just as confident as the bookies are for a
top-flight return by the Trotters.

Last season: 18th (Premier League)
Home ground: Reebok Stadium
Rivals: Blackburn Rovers,  Manchester United, Wigan Athletic
Bookies’ prediction: 2nd

Questions answered by Ryan Taylor http://www.twitter.com/razzat93

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
To go back up at first time of asking!

2.What’s your biggest fear?
To have a poor home form and injuries like last season.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
 A left back and back up goalkeeper.


4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Blackburn and Burnley.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Chung yung Lee, Holden and Kevin Davies

6. Who will win the league?
Bolton (I hope!)

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Blackpool

8. Where will you finish?
1st

Cardiff City

Unlucky… The Bluebirds are serial play-off chokers.

Last season: 6th
Home ground: Cardiff City Stadium
Rivals: Swansea City, Bristol City, Newport County, Leeds United
Bookies’ prediction: 7th

Questions answered by Jordan Jones http://www.twitter.com/jordanjonesy

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Automatic promotion

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Failing dramatically despite the investment.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Wingers and Striker

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Wolves

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Mason, Velikonja, Whittingham and Bellamy(pending he signs)

6. Who will win the league?
 Cardiff if the right players are brought in, failing that Blackburn                                    

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Dark horses will be Watford                      

8. Where will you finish?
3rd place, narrowly missing out on automatic promotion

Leeds United

Unpopular… ‘Dirty Leeds’ and ‘Colin Wanker’ may be a match made in Hell.

Last season: 14th
Home ground: Elland Road
Rivals: Manchester United, Chelsea
Bookies’ prediction: 5th

Questions answered by Carl Watson http://www.twitter.com/CarlCarlito75

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Takeover completed and wave bates goodbye

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Defence

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Barnsley

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Lees, Kenny and Snodgrass

6. Who will win the league?
Leeds

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Huddersfield

8. Where will you finish?
Top

Leicester City

Modest… Favourites Leicester are staying much more grounded this time around.

Last season: 9th
Home ground: King Power Stadium
Rivals: Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City
Bookies’ prediction: Champions

Questions answered by Dean Goodsell http://www.twitter.com/deangoodsell

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Promotion, pure and simple. After so many seasons of saying “this is our year”, just once it would be nice to have it finally come true.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Another season of mid-table mediocrity. We’ve had so little to celebrate over the past few seasons, just something would be nice.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Our strength in depth. In positions such as central defence, on the wing and even in goal we do not have decent back up. If anything is to be our downfall this season, I fear it may be injuries and suspensions.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Bristol City. After having them do the double over us last season, I feel some revenge is in order.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…

Jamie Vardy – Boasts a very good goalscoring record in non league. If he can make the step up, he will certainly give opposition defences some concern this season!

Ben Marshall – A promising youngster who had a good end to the season last term. With a good eye for goal and a mean set piece on him, I’m sure we can expect to see more of the same this year.

Wes Morgan – A typical Pearson-esque ‘no nonsense’ defender. Big, strong and competent on the ball, it’ll take a brave man to get past him!

6. Who will win the league?
Birmingham. A decent, young manager at the helm, who some say was unfairly dismissed from Huddersfield. Lee Clark will certainly be eager to prove his critics wrong. They’ve made good use of the transfer market so far, bringing in experienced players such as Ambrose and Mullins who are joining an already decent Championship setup. Also, without the added pressure of European football this season, I feel they will be a tough nut to crack.                                           

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Huddersfield. It’s not uncommon to see teams from League One achieve success in the Championship, Huddersfield will be on a wave of momentum after winning the playoffs last season and will look to emulate the likes of Norwich and Southampton. If they can keep the core of their team from last season, they will certainly surprise a few people this season.

8. Where will you finish?
6th

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Woeful Wolves… ‘The Glass Fox’ is hoping that Wanderers’ defensive troubles are a thing of the past.

Last season: 20th (Premier League)
Home ground: Molineux
Rivals: West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City, Aston Villa
Bookies’ prediction: 3rd

Questions answered by ‘The Glass Fox’ http://www.twitter.com/The_Glass_Fox

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My hope and that of many Wolves fans is that we can start playing some attractive football and improve on the performances of last season

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Going back to long ball football consistently, Wolves need a change from the style of play that happened under McCarthy

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
The defence has been an issue for 5 seasons now but the imminent signing of Vadim Demidov maybe a coupe for the new manager.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
The local derby with Birmingham is always a big game and a positive result against Blues would be a fantastic thing.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Wolves players to look out for the new signings Sigurdarson who a fast and strong Icelandic striker, who has been compared to Ibrahimovic

6. Who will win the league?
I would love for Wolves to go all the way but I can’t look past Forest if they spend big and Blackburn, who have a really strong

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
I think Simon Grayson could take Huddersfield to the playoffs this season, I also think SWFC could have back to back promotions.

8. Where will you finish?
With Wolves might heart says they will get automatic promotion but my head thinks that the playoffs would be a good achievement for us.

Play-off hopefuls

Birmingham City

Contenders… Brum are gunning for promotion and regional rivals, Wolves.

Last season: 4th
Home ground: St. Andrews
Rivals: Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion
Bookies’ prediction: 10th

Questions answered by Liam Radburn http://www.twitter.com/Raggy118118

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Promotion

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Becoming a mid table team

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Defensive cover

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Wolves

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Butland and Redmond

6. Who will win the league?
Blackburn                              

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Charlton

8. Where will you finish?
6th

Blackpool

Expectant… Gollum’s Tangerine army think this is their year.

Last season: 5th
Home ground: Bloomfield Road
Rivals: Preston North End, Burnley
Bookies’ prediction: 8th

Questions answered by Bob http://www.twitter.com/RWC_TheWire

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Anywhere in the Top 3, but as long as we are in the play-offs and have a strong chance of getting promoted I don’t mind

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Losing another play-off final or missing out on promotion on the last day for whatever reason. Losing to Bolton (Mate’s team) is also bad.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Another goal-keeper as back-up wouldn’t be a bad idea, and same again with a defender. Would love to sign Stephen Dobbie fully, and maybe a back up striker.  Actually, I’ll say a back-up striker who we can ease in to replace Super Kev

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Would love to beat Bolton, Leeds and Burnley. Beating all the Yorkshire teams wouldn’t go down badly really.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Incey and Matty Phillips always look good on the wings, Cathcart is still young and improving, our midfield all stand out too.

6. Who will win the league?
Anyone out of: Us, Bolton, Wolves, Blackburn, Birmingham and Forest. If I had to pick, I’d say Birmingham.

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Hopefully us, seen us written off quite a bit but a top 3 finish is easily on the cards I reckon. Play-offs without a doubt. If not, I’d say Leeds, Leicester or Middlesbrough

8. Where will you finish?
Somewhere in-between 2nd and 8th. Depends on how well the likes of Blackburn or Forest do, no-one can weigh them up at the moment.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Determined… The Seagulls are desperate to win football’s most illogical rivalry.

Last season: 10th
Home ground: AMEX Stadium
Rivals: Crystal Palace
Bookies’ prediction: 9th

Questions answered by Simon Sheppard http://www.twitter.com/SeagullSimon

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My greatest hope for the new season? Same as every other Championship fan really, That my team gets promotion to The Premiership.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear? Losing at home to Palace again!

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
It’s only 2 now after signing Kuszcak in goal. We need a proven Championship goalscorer, and a tough tackling midfielder.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Palace!!! It’s important we shut up Da Croydon Massiff this season.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Vicente obviously, but Buckley, LuaLua, Bruno, Bridcutt, CMS, Barnes, Bridge, Noone but to name a few

6. Who will win the league?
I think we will be there or thereabouts, but my tip for The Championship is Blackburn.

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
This seasons “dark Horses” Brighton. Not saying that because I’m a fan. but made some great signings, more to come, you watch us go!

8. Where will you finish?
Where will Brighton finish? Anywhere in the top 6, but I have a sneaky feeling it will be 2nd.

Charlton Athletic

Realists… Dan Finch doesn’t think the Addicks should be aiming for the Premier League just yet.

Last season: Champions (League One)
Home ground: The Valley
Rivals: Millwall, Crystal Palace
Bookies’ prediction: 14th

Questions answered by Dan Finch http://www.twitter.com/MiniFinchy

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Stay in the league Keep Solly and Keep Jacko on form!

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Losing to Palace! Can’t be dealing with that or relegation

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Need a goalie or another centre back. Someone Like Maguire from Sheff Utd.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Palace or Sheffield Wednesday.. Hate ’em both

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Chris Solly, Yann Kermorgant, Rhoys Wiggins and Danny Hollands

6. Who will win the league?
Bolton should

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Wouldn’t say no if Derby are up there if they can keep form maybe Middlesbrough

8. Where will you finish?
17th around there 🙂 #coyr

Hull City

Lonely on Humberside… Bitter Hull want to sink their claws in to East Midlands’ Leicester

Last season: 8th
Home ground: KC Stadium
Rivals: Leeds United, Grimsby Town, Scunthorpe United
Bookies’ prediction: 14th

Questions answered by Nicholas Smith http://www.twitter.com/Nicks648

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My greatest hope for the new season is that we will get automatic promotion I am quietly confident under Bruce it can happen

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is that we under perform and battle relegation however I find this possibility highly unlikely with a mid table finish probably our worst position

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Our team needs a new centre back with jack Hobbs out injured a winger who can beat a man and two new strikers a desperate need due to us scoring only 47 goals last season

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I most want to beat Leicester twice I still have a very bitter taste towards them with regards to Pearson .

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
I would say the player to look out for is Robert Koren can make something happen out of nothing and was sensational last season

6. Who will win the league?
I think it is likely it will be a relegated team like Bolton or Blackburn to win the league

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
This season’s dark horses will be huddersfield they’ve made some good additions and under Grayson I can see them getting play offs

8. Where will you finish?
I think we will finish 3rd this season however I wouldn’t be surprised to see us get automatic

Middlesbrough

Redemption…’Boro are hoping they can avenge last season’s heartache

Last season: 7th
Home ground: The Riverside Stadium
Rivals: Newcastle United, Sunderland, Leeds United
Bookies’ prediction: 12th

Questions answered by Lee Bailey http://www.twitter.com/smoggy_1986

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Hopefully the playoffs at least, was gutting to miss out on the last day last season. Should be getting top 6 this time round

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Squad Depth, our squad is small and injuries to key players cost us a top 6 place last season

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We need a creative midfielder, who can unlock stubborn defences, need an experienced LB to give joe bennet competition and some RB’s

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Leeds, dont like Warnock and they are our closest rival in this league.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Marvin Emnes, could be doing nothing one second then scoring the next, Rhys Williams and a FIT (keyword) Matthew Bates

6. Who will win the league?
No idea, this league is insane, take your pick from Boro, Wolves, Brum, Leicester, Blackpool, Bolton, Blackburn.

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Barnsley always favourites to go down but they seem to do okay, maybe Huddersfield. Millwall if they carry on last seasons end of form

8. Where will you finish?
Top 6 at least, I want to say top 2 but who knows.

Nottingham Forest

An East Midlands club with money? Where have we heard that before?

Last season: 19th
Home ground: The City Ground
Rivals: Derby County, Leicester City, Sheffield United, Notts County
Bookies’ prediction: 6th

Questions answered by Zack Grundy http://www.twitter.com/zackgrundy26

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My greatest hope is that we can finally end our poor streak in play offs and get promoted back to where we belong.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is that the fans will expect too much and turn on the team after a few bad results.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Defence no doubt, currently we only have one defender who started consistently last season.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Derby! After losing twice to them last season it makes me want to beat them even more than usual.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Dexter Blackstock, Chris Cohen and Chris Gunter.

6. Who will win the league?
Blackburn.

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Huddersfield, if they keep Rhodes I am certain that they will be near if not in the play offs.

8. Where will you finish?
I think we will finish near the play offs but not in them.

Sheffield Wednesday

Renaissance… The Owls are ready to perch in the play-offs

Last season: 2nd (League One)
Home ground: Hillsborough
Rivals: Sheffield United, Leeds United, Barnsley
Bookies’ prediction: 13th

Questions answered by Victoria Wood http://www.twitter.com/Victoria1867

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Play offs or mid table, no need for pressure this year!

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Biggest fear probably relegation or signing Joey Barton!

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We’re pretty covered now. Wouldn’t mind signing Antonio though

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
 L**ds, moreso now Warnock is there!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
one to watch – Maguire

6. Who will win the league?
I’d like to say Bolton but I’d be wrong! Forest maybe? Controversial!

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Same as 6

8. Where will you finish?
Probably mid table

Mid-table Stragglers

Burnley 

Lost in the shuffle… Burnley are one of few clubs that don’t fancy their chances.

Last season: 13th
Home ground: Turf Moor
Rivals: Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End, Blackpool
Bookies’ prediction: 17th

Questions answered by Kieran Dallimore http://www.twitter.com/KieranClaret

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Promotion, very doubtable.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
 Midfield.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Blackburn Rovers.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Charlie Austin, Danny Ings, Marvin Bartley, Jason Shackell

6. Who will win the league?
Wolverhampton Wanderers

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Huddersfield

8. Where will you finish?
11th

Derby County

Charge… The Rams want to defy the odds and grab a top 6 finish.

Last season: 12th
Home ground: Pride Park
Rivals: Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, Leeds United
Bookies’ prediction: 19th

Questions answered by Jon Mills www.twitter.com/JonMillsDCFC

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Hoping for a play-off push but we are a selling club under the American ownership.Ok with new signings BUT loss of Shackell/Green massive

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Barker out for season, we cashed in on Shackell and Green has gone so if new signings are not enough we might go backwards this season

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Definitely need at least one new centre half, a left back and a striker

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Same as every season – Florist!!!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Tom Naylor (only 20) did well when he arrived last season. Jeff Hendrick is class. Will Hughes from youth team could make a big impact

6. Who will win the league?
Always look out for the relegated prem teams. Not sure Wolves will do well but Bolton and Blackburn both have a chance

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Promoted teams have done well recently. Fancy Sheffield Wednesday to have a good season

8. Where will you finish?
New signings look good so if we get a decent centre half, cover for left back and a striker to score 15-20 goals, I fancy a top 6 finish

Huddersfield Town 

Buoyant… Terriers’ fans think the good times are back at the Galpharm

Last season: 4th (League One)
Home ground: Galpharm Stadium
Rivals: Leeds United, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday
Bookies’ prediction: 16th

Questions answered by HTFC Hub http://www.twitter.com/HTFC_Hub

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Our greatest hope for this season is ultimately to stay up and would be in absolute dream land if we managed to get into the play-offs.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Our biggest fear has to be getting relegated. Nobody wants to go down a league especially after waiting 11 years for promotion.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
#htafc‬ need to strengthen in midfield. Two great signings so far but need one more. Also a forward alongside Rhodes is badly needed.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Most fans would say Leeds but I’m not too bothered. A lot of Yorkshire derby’s this year so would be nice to win a few of those.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Last seasons top goalscorer in England…Jordan Rhodes. Also Hunt, Scannell, Higginbotham, Norwood, Clayton. We have a very strong squad.

6. Who will win the league?
Tough question. The league is going to be so tight this year. Too early to say especially with the transfer window still open.

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
I’m going for ourselves. May sound big headed but with a couple of extra signings we can really make our mark on the Championship!

8. Where will you finish?
Would settle for anywhere above relegation zone. However realistically I believe we will finish around 8th spot. Maybe even play-offs!

Ipswich Town

Mainstay… Ipswich have been in the 2nd tier for 10 consecutive seasons.

Last season: 15th
Home ground: Portman Road
Rivals: Norwich City
Bookies’ prediction: 15th

Questions answered by Daniel Crack www.twitter.com/DCrackers_ITFC

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My greatest hope would be a top 10 finish

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is yet another low midtable finish

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
our defence , as we conceded the 2nd highest amount of goals in English football last season and we’re short of cover at the back

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Peterborough.. to get them back for spanking us last season!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Emmanuel Thomas and Lee Martin

6. Who will win the league?
Bolton, although Brighton are in with a serious shout of finishing as champions!

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
I think Leeds will be the dark horses, they have a great manager in charge and they are signing some great players

8. Where will you finish?
I think Ipswich, with the current squad will finish a worrying 17th place, but they all depends on who we sign before the 18th august

Watford

Surprise package… Zola’s hornet army are ready to ambush the league’s big guns.

Last season: 11th
Home ground: Vicarage Road
Rivals: Luton Town
Bookies’ prediction: 18th

Questions answered by Chris ‘Manic’ Mundy http://www.twitter.com/Manic_Mundy

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Zola to inspire the team and for Watford to get top 6.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
The team not responding to Zola

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Mainly strikers but also left mid

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Palace

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Sean Murray & Jon Hogg

6. Who will win the league?
I think Blackburn will win the league .

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Tough one but maybe us..I really think with the right players we could do well.

8. Where will you finish?
Between 8th / 6th

Relegation candidates

Barnsley

Grit… The Tykes are ready to scrap for survival

Last season: 21st
Home ground: Oakwell
Rivals: Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United, Doncaster Rovers
Bookies’ prediction: 24th

Questions answered by Tricky Walker www.twitter.com/tricky_bfc_

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
I think mid table if KH works his wonders .. But loosing RVT and Butterfield. I think it will be about surviving this season!

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Being a small club with no cash… Our biggest fear in injuries and suspensions!!

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
I like to see a big, strong CB come in and a play-maker in CM to fill Butterfield boots.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Good Question. But every Barnsley fan it has be Dee Dars ( Sheff Wed ) haha

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Jim O’Brien.. but us fans would love to see Mido hit top form.

6. Who will win the league?
Hard question.. I’d say Blackpool..

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
I’d say Dirty Leeds with Warnock in charge..

8. Where will you finish?
15th?

Bristol City

Recovery… Melissa Spencer hopes for an improved showing from the Robins.

Last season: 20th
Home ground: Ashton Gate
Rivals: Bristol Rovers, Cardiff City
Bookies’ prediction: 22nd

Questions answered by Melissa Spencer http://www.twitter.com/MelissaSpencerX

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Greatest hope is improving on last season, no-one fancies a relegation battle again, so I’d be happy with top half/midtable.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Biggest fear would obviously be going down. we’ve managed to establish ourselves as a Championship club, don’t want to lose it!

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We need another striker & new centre half primarily, also need a new GK too. We’ve been linked to Buzsaky who is the midfielder we’ve been screaming out for!

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I want to beat Cardiff & Leeds. Cardiff always have a nack of beating us! My boyfriend is Leeds, and they normally beat us so its about time we beat them!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Definitely Albert Adomah. He’s attracted a lot of interest from PL clubs. I’d also recommend looking out for our young winger Yannick Bolasie, not been featured much but when he has, he’s been a gamechanger.

6. Who will win the league?
Bolton, said it as soon as they went down. They have the facilities, and the players, and the manager. They will bounce back.

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
 I’d like to say us – but i think Huddersfield will be. They’ve strengthened significantly, and I think Simon Grayson has what it takes to guide them up there.

8. Where will you finish?
I think we’ll finish in between 10-17th. The league is so tight this season, anyone can go up or down.

Crystal  Palace

Staying up… The bookies may have underestimated Palace

Last season: 17th
Home ground: Selhurst Park
Rivals: Brighton & Hove Albion, Millwall, Charlton Athletic
Bookies’ prediction: 21st

Questions answered by David Jamieson www.twitter.com/JamiesonDavid

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Keep building on the progress made since coming out of administration. And win all our derby games – Charlton, Millwall and Brighton!  If all else fails finishing above Brighton will do nicely

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Losing to Brighton and not matching the ambitions of some of our more talented youth products like WIlfried Zaha come season’s end

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We’re in desperate need of goals so priority is a striker who can score regularly. A CB is also required and possibly another winger

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Brighton!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Wilfried Zaha – if he keeps progressing at the rate he has it will be another torrid season for opposing full backs                                              Jonathan Williams too – his breakthrough season was disrupted by a broken leg but this should be a massive year for the little magician

6. Who will win the league?
The Championship is probably the most competitive league in Europe so it’s anybody’s guess.

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Palace, hopefully!!! Think the bookies have been hard on us with only P’boro and Barnsley less likely to be promoted according to them

8. Where will you finish?
Toward the top section of mid-table, which is where we should’ve been last year before starting to run out steam around February

Millwall 

“No one rates us! We don’t care!”… Lions laugh at talk of relegation.

Last season: 16th
Home ground: The Den
Rivals: West Ham United, Crystal Palace, Charlton Athletic
Bookies’ prediction: 20th

Questions answered by Total Carnage http://www.twitter.com/TotalCarnageMFC

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Top 10 finish

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Chairman leaving and going into administration

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Forward line especially a goalscorer

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Most like to beat Leeds United but MUST finish above Charlton and Palace for the 3rd consecutive season

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Keogh, Trotter and Henderson.

6. Who will win the league?
Nottingham Forest (If their new owner is true to his word re transfer budget) If not Blackburn.

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Dark horses – Huddersfield

8. Where will you finish?
Think we will finish 9th

Peterborough United

Fox hunt… Andrew van den Bent-Kelly wants Foxes scalp.

Last season: 18th
Home ground: London Road
Rivals: Cambridge United, Northampton Town, Leicester City, MK Dons
Bookies’ prediction: 23rd

Questions answered by Andrew van den Bent-Kelly www.twitter.com/AndrewvdBK

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
I hope we can push on from last season, but the league will be much tougher this year, so the priority has to be staying up again. We’re still in the process of establishing ourselves as a Championship side.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation. We’re still the smallest club in the league so we’ll be favourites to go down, as we were last season. After all our hardwork last year, suffering from Second Season Syndrome would be disastrous

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We seem to have made the right signings so I don’t think any position needs a dramatic overhaul now. If Boyd and Taylor do leave then we may need another addition up-front, but I’m confident that the squad is good enough

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I appreciate that the feeling isn’t really mutual, but most Posh fans would love to beat Leicester!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Provided he remains injury-free, our new signing Danny Swanson looks the real deal. Two of our best players last year were Zakuani and Alcock so I hope they can produce similar levels of performance. Our new keeper Bobby Olejnik also has the ability to flourish this season

6. Who will win the league?
I’m going to go for Bolton

7. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
I doubt they’ll get successive promotions, but Sheffield Wednesday are one of the biggest clubs in the league and I wouldn’t put it past them to nick a play-off spot

8. Where will you finish?
It will be tough, but I believe we have a good enough squad to not only stay up, but improve on last year’s showing. I’ll say 16th

The Championship & Big Clubs

One of the most common and coincidentally annoying defence mechanisms in Championship fans’ repetoire is their persistence that they’re a ‘big club’. Whether it’s a Leeds, Derby or Blackpool fan, a high proportion of second tier fanatics will have some sort of superiority complex.

So, I took to the pages of Twitter and asked the fans of the Championship what criteria they took in to consideration when deciding upon who deserves ‘big club’ status in 2012. Typically, the most prominent responses were ‘history’ and ‘fanbase’. Secondary suggestions came in the form of most recent league finish and ‘potential’ i.e. their expectancy to achieve within the coming season.

Many football fans will be well aware that the room for debate in this subject is colossal so I’ve (attempted to) devised a set of criteria aiming to pinpoint the big guns of today’s second tier. Each team has been ranked in each category – 24 points to the top team and 1 to the worst. As history was such a popular suggestion, points are doubled in that category. Fanbase is measured by both last season’s home and away attendances, thus in effect doubling that category too.

Last season’s finish – Bolton Wanderers achieved the best finish of the Championship’s teams last season, finishing 18th in the Premier League. Huddersfield Town are awarded 1 point for finishing 4th and as eventual play-off winners in League One.

Going down… Bolton Wanderers were relegated from the Premier League.

Overall History – Blackburn Rovers have the ‘richest’ history of the 24 second tier teams. Peterborough United are the Championship’s minnows. (source: http://www.aboutaball.co.uk/aboutaball-historical-football-rankings/historical-ranking-of-english-football-clubs)

Historic… Blackburn Rovers won the 1994/95 Premier League.

Home attendance – Derby County possess the greatest home support in the league (*cough* free tickets *cough*). Whereas, Peterborough are once again last.

Packed… Derby County were the only club to achieve a sell-out last season.

Away attendance – ‘Dirty’ Leeds United are the Championship’s best travellers with Watford at the opposite end of the scale.

Marching on Together… Leeds away support is far superior.

Potential – Potential was measured by the club’s current winning odds for next season. Thus, Leicester City possess the most potential of the Championship’s clubs. Barnsley, this time are bottom. (source: http://www.oddschecker.com/football/english/championship)

Fox hunt… Leicester are the ‘most likely’ to achieve promotion.

When all the points are added the table of 2012/13 big clubs looks like this;

1.  Wolverhampton Wanderers – 123
2.  Blackburn Rovers – 122
3.  Bolton Wanderers – 119
4.  Leeds United – 113
5.  Leicester City – 112
6.  Birmingham City – 101
7.  Sheffield Wednesday – 99
8.  Derby County – 97
9.  Nottingham Forest – 95
10.  Middlesbrough – 90
11.  Blackpool – 81
12.  Cardiff City – 79
13.  Brighton & Hove Albion – 72
14=  Hull City – 65
14= Ipswich Town – 65
16.  Huddersfield Town – 60
17.  Burnley – 59
18=  Crystal Palace – 50
18=  Charlton Athletic – 50
20.  Watford – 33
21.  Barnsley – 30
22.  Bristol City – 29
23.  Millwall – 28
24.  Peterborough United – 20

The East Midlands Derbies

The East Midlands is a funny place to determine local rivalries. Traditionally, a successful area of the country in terms of footballing heritage, being the home of Nottingham Forest, Derby County and of course, Leicester City. However, although there is little room for disputing the legitimacy of the ‘East Midlands Big 3’. There is significantly more doubt over the issue of who hates whom.

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Rivals… Derby, Leicester and Nott’m Forest

There seems to be a significant divide among the supporters of the three clubs as to the extent of each’s rivalry with the other two. In 2003, the Football Fans Census aimed to highlight who football fans considered their clubs biggest rivals and there were no surprises in the East Midlands with all three naming each other as their two biggest rivals;

Derby County Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, Leeds United

Leicester City – Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City

Nottingham Forest – Derby County, Leicester City, Sheffield United

The evidence of this ‘census’ being accurate is apparent on social networking site, Twitter. With fans often engaging in ‘banter’ with their rival’s supporters. However, although Leicester, Forest and Derby share a frequent and equal need to bash each other over Twitter, a rivalry survey I launched on Twitter and all three clubs’ biggest forum had slightly different results to that of the 2003 census. Forest and Derby remained the fiercest rivalry with each still naming each other as their main rival. Leicester still saw Forest as the enemy and Forest saw Leicester as the next best alternative with Sheffield United still in third. However, the Derby-Leicester rivalry seems to have diluted within the last 9 years with both naming each other as their third biggest rivals. With Leicester behind Leeds United and Derby now behind Coventry City.

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Crunch… Derby County list BOTH Forest and Leicester as rivals.

Attendances are another area of these rivalries where intensity could be disputed. In the 2011/12 season the Derby County vs. Nottingham Forest at Pride Park was the only East Midlands derby to receive no coverage on television. With Derby and Leicester’s two league clashes and Leicester-Forest’s FA Cup replay taking centre stage on the box. It is fair to say over the last few seasons, Leicester City’s games against Forest and Derby are far more likely to be televised than those against each other. Perhaps indicating how the media depicts the intensity of each rivalry. However, Derby-Forest was the only sell-out derby match of last season with 33,010 fans rocking up on the night. Attendances for all three have dropped considerably over the last few seasons.

2009/10
Derby vs. Forest – 32,674

Derby vs. Leicester – 30,259
Leicester vs. Derby – 28,875
Leicester vs. Forest – 31,759
Forest vs. Derby – 28,143
Forest vs. Leicester – 28,626

2010/11
Derby vs. Forest – 33,010
Derby vs. Leicester – 26,142 (5.20 kick-off, televised)
Leicester vs. Derby – 25,930
Leicester vs. Forest – 24,659 (7.45 Monday kick-off, televised)
Forest vs. Derby – 29,490
Forest vs. Leicester – 24,217 (5.20 Good Friday kick-off, televised)

2011/12
Derby vs. Leicester – 28,205 (7.45 Thursday kick-off, televised)
Derby vs. Forest – 33,010 (7.45 Tuesday kick-off)
Leicester vs. Derby – 22,496 (5.20 kick-off, televised)
Leicester vs. Forest – 23,412 (7.45 Tuesday kick-off)
Forest vs. Leicester – 24,426
Forest vs. Derby – 27,356 (12.00 kick-off, televised)

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Sea of Blue… 8,000 Leicester fans storm the City Ground.

Although the fans census and attendance figures may agree that Forest-Derby is the biggest rivalry in East Midlands, the history books would contend this. It is widely accepted among the clubs’ fans that pre-Brian Clough the main rivalry in the East Midlands was between Nottingham Forest and Leicester City due to the size of both cities (both considerably bigger than Derby) and the socio-economic rivalry that has lasted between Nottingham and Leicester for decades. The rivalry seems to transcend football time and time again. Most notably with the East Midlands airport dispute. The airport is closer to Nottingham, which it was originally named after but it had a Derby post code and fell within the Leicestershire border. This intensified the rivalry between the three cities and it has since been rebranded East Midlands Airport : Nottingham – Leicester – Derby.

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Hate… Emotions boil over at Pride Park

Geography is of course another key factor in determining the strength of each rivalry. The cities of Nottingham and Derby are just 13 miles apart, that’s half the distance between either and Leicester. This is likely to cause a more intense local rivalry. However, heavily populated towns in Leicestershire that are much closer to their rivals have been known to host a hostile atmosphere. Most notably, Loughborough and Melton Mowbray towards Nottinghamshire and Coalville towards Derbyshire. Interestingly enough, geography may not be as important in the East Midlands as most other places with only Derby considering their nearest football club their main rivals. Forest’s nearest club are Notts County and Leicester’s is M69 rivals, Coventry.

In my own personal experience, Derby and Forest fans seem to legitimately care about Leicester City. Granted, not as much as each other but the rivalry still exists. I remember the way, the Reds celebrated an injury time equaliser against the Foxes in August in a traditionally controversial clash between the two EM giants. I remember Forest’s chants from late-March – “If you all hate Leicester, clap your hands.”, “Build a bonfire, build a bonfire put the Derby on the top, put the Leicester in the middle and we’ll burn the fucking lot.”, “We’ll never be mastered by you Leicester bastards, we’ll keep the red flag flying high.” I also remember, a Derby fan shouting abuse at me as I walked down the street with a Leicester flag for Sport Relief. The reason, I bring up the word ‘care’ is the now frequented defense mechanism introduced by the Derby-Forest alliance a few years ago. Both clubs claim to not care about the Foxes which is a perfect excuse when Leicester City manage to beat their rivals. Their fans don’t care. However, on the rare occasion they beat Leicester, the story changes and the three become rivals again.

To me, it’s clear. Derby and Forest are the biggest rivals in the East Midlands. I don’t believe the rivalry is as big as their fans make it out to be and I don’t believe Leicester-Forest and Leicester-Derby is as weak as the Rams and Reds claim nor do I feel that it’s the hugest rivalry in existence as some Leicester fans may lead you to believe. For now, all I can say to Leicester fans, is leave Forest and Derby alone to think they’re Real and Barca and when we bump in to our friends of the tree or sheep persuasion, we can remind them where our ‘loyalties’ lie. After all, foxes eat sheep and trees are perfect for pissing on.

We hate Forest! We hate Derby! Who the f**k are Coventry?